travel

Can You Hear Me Now?

ajijic roosterI have a vivid memory of the first morning that I woke up in my bed in our newly finished house in Mexico. Having cashed everything in, having quit our jobs, having moved my leprous cocker spaniel two thousand miles, my first thought on waking up in our new home was “Jesus. I have made a really big mistake.”

I don’t hear the noise anymore, amazingly, because there is no such thing as silence in a Mexican village. In the dead of night the ambient noise level is probably equivalent to a Kenny G concert. But that first morning a firecracker woke me up from a restless sleep. And once I was awake, there was nothing to do but listen to the pandemonium that indicates the beginning of the day in a Mexico.

Showing real estate clients village homes, which is what everyone wants down here, I have to prepare them for the “vividness” and “color” (I’ve found the words “noise” and “trash” to be counterproductive to a girl in my line of work) of life within a few blocks of the central plaza.

But even though it’s never completely quiet at night, there is a subtle difference in the volume of the noise between 4:00 am and morning. Dawn in Mexico is not stealthy. There’s none of that business of creeping in on little cat’s feet. It’s more of a convulsion, all at once and no holding back.

The nutcase roosters, none of whom care when they crow, can still recognize daybreak when it comes. Just because they enjoy the sound of their voices at any time of the night doesn’t prevent them from having a complete spaz attack when the sun comes up. And it’s not just the roosters. We also have turkeys and peacocks and ducks. And dogs and cows and donkeys, and they all like to start the day with some vocal warm-ups. The delivery trucks start early, with their advertising slogans and jingles broadcast over loudspeakers, notably the ubiquitous “Zeta gaaaaaaahzzzzzz,” which is a backdrop to every activity of the day. They are accompanied by church bells, which start at 7:oo by being rung 23 times for no reason that anyone has been able to explain to me. The village priest is likely to get into the act at about this time, singing mass in a gregorian sing song that is sent all over the village on the church’s fresh eggsbuzzing sound system.

Once all these animals are awake and the delivery trucks are on the road, the commuters start rattling through town and playing music on the stereos that are attached to whatever conveyance is carrying them. Sometimes it’s the weird polka music that nobody thinks is Mexican but that is played everywhere. There’s bound to be some throbbing bass lines under Spanish rap, along with traditional Latin love songs and American Top 40. Then the ladies start splashing the street with their buckets of water and calling to each other and the uniformed school kids who dodge the commuters and play tag while walking to school.

If all this sounds like the Springfield Dinner Theatre production of Oliver!, I’m telling you it is. It is charming and colorful beyond belief. But living here happily requires making peace with the lack of peace.

And some good earplugs.

Elliott Joachim pulled the plug on life in Metro D.C. and headed South of the Border. In her blog, Lifestyle Refugee (honey, what the hell are we doing in Mexico), she regales you with how a middle range baby boomer builds a new life in Ajijic.

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